Publishing

Web Design and Blogging Advice for Writers

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Originally written in 2008, reblogged due to a recent social media discussion regarding websites/blogs for authors. I don’t think any of this is out of date, and if any of my readers have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments!

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Every so often I’m in a position to give advice to writers who are either newer to the game than myself or who simply don’t have as much web experience as I do. I gave an exhaustive crash course to a fellow Arctic Wolf author yesterday via instant messenger so I figured now is as good a time as any to put down what I know in an easily accessible format that I can link people to.

Disclaimer: This is what I do. It works for me. It might not be your Gospel truth, but take what you need and forget about the rest. I do know what I’m talking about, though; I’ve been an IT professional since 2000 and an amateur web designer since 1997. My site will never be the flashiest or most cutting-edge; I don’t have any use for that stuff. It is, however, an effective marketing tool. These lessons have been learned through trial and error; my writing site alone has undergone 4-5 revisions since 2006.

  • Get Thee a Domain Name and Webhost. Or if you’re really not tech-savvy, at least get the domain name and redirect it to that free website you have. What sounds better, looks better on your biography, etc.? http://lincolncrisler.freewebs.com or http://lincolncrisler.com? Your name is your brand. People could see my name somewhere online or in a bookstore and find my website by taking a guess. “I don’t have money for that,” you say. That’s ok; I’m the cheapest guy on the face of the earth. Just ask my wife. I pay $35 a YEAR for my domain name and webhost at TinyHosts.Com. That’s for the URL, webspace and email. If you can’t afford that, you should be reading this instead.
  • Consolidate Thy Site. My first author site had three pages; one each for biography, news and links to stories. My second had five; I added two pages of stuff I can’t I can’t remember but sounded good at the time. My latest page has one, for all intents and purposes; yeah, there’s links to excerpts from my books and a little note to readers of my blog, but you don’t need to read any of that to know about my work. Links to my books, interviews I’ve done, what I’m reading/watching now, biography… all of it’s available in the sidebar of my site. I used to have a webpage AND a blog. My blog got almost no hits, for reasons I’ll get into further in a minute, but the biggest reason is: Who the Hell wants to weed through five pages of website AND a blog belonging to a relatively unknown small-press author? Once I had that revelation, it was simple; my blog is now my site, and everything else anyone needs to know about me is right there on the side of the page.
  • Make Thy Website/Blog Interesting. The dude I was helping the other day had nothing on his blog but posts about reviews of his book and interviews he’s done. The links on his sidebar consisted almost solely of places to buy his book. All that stuff is important, yeah, but no one is going to find your site on a search engine if all your content is about YOU. Unless they already know you; but you’re trying to reach new readers, right? Blog about your life. Show thumbnails of funny webcomics you like. Review books and/or movies of interest to people who might read your work. Have links to stuff like that in your sidebar. The most-read ten posts on my site include reviews of work by Brian Keene and Cormac McCarthy, a political rant, a funny IM prank script and a recipe for some chicken. Also in that top ten are my Dear Reader note, the excerpts from both of my books and an essay I wrote on the virtues of paying markets vs. 4TheLuv markets. What does that mean? The additional content brings in readers, and they do stick around to learn more about your work.
  • Optimize Thy Site. Use categories on your blog. Use tags on your posts. They help search engines direct people to your site. Honestly. I had the opportunity to guest-blog at A Bunch of Wordz a few months back, and since it’s a more widely-read site than my own and it’s run on WordPress like my own, I took the opportunity to analyze their statistics to see how they get so many hits a day. I spent an hour a day for almost a week adding tags to my entire backlog of posts and now I make sure to add them to every new post I make. My statistics also look as filled-out as A Bunch of Wordz’ these days.
  • The Bottom Line. I revamped my site in April of this year. That is, I scrapped my five-page website, switched over to just using my blog, installed WordPress on my webhost (and WordPress’ll even do that for you for FREE if you’re not tech-savvy) and went wild. That month I netted 173 hits for the month, and I called that good. In May I had 323 hits, and 572 in June. It’s nine days into July and I already have 175 hits; that’s more than the whole month of April landed me. Do the math.

Hope this helps. Drop me a line in the comments section with any additional advice, hate mail, etc.

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But WAIT…There’s MOAR!

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I’ve covered the douchebaggery of Tony Giangregorio and Undead Press here and here if you need to get caught up. Those of you already in the know might be interested in knowing that the guy is still at it. Even more outrageous is that he’s contacting people who pulled their stories from his most recent anthology, CAVALCADE, and asking them if they’d care to send him their pulled stories for a new project.

Can you say facepalm, boys and girls? I knew you could.

Brent Abell:

 

This evening while at my son’s baseball game, I received an e-mail from Tony G. at Undead Press.  The e-mail asked if the story I submitted and pulled from Cavalcade of Terror was still available.  He was wanting it for a new horror anthology.  I politely declined and I left it at that, trying to be courteous and professional.

Wes Southard:

 A few minutes ago I received an email from the now infamous Undead Press editor asking me if I’d like to re-publish my former Cavalcade of Terror story in a new anthology of his–complete with new name, new cover art, and all the Thanksgiving fixings.

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Support Genre-Author Veterans This Memorial Day

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This Memorial Day weekend, you might have time to stretch out with a good book, in between the grilling and the beers. There are a lot more military personnel (current as well as former) creating genre fiction than you might imagine. Supporting one or two of them by picking up an awesome read would accomplish multiple acts of awesome with just a few mouse clicks. Here’s a short list, just to start you off. If I left out your favorite veteran/author, add him or her in the comments box. I’m certain to miss one or two. If your wallet’s a little light after buying all that beer and meat, follow a few of these folks on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to their blogs!

Of course, this being my site, I’m going to lead off by pimping my dark superhero anthology, CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? (which opens with Tim Marquitz’ tale of a superhuman weapon in the War on Terror followed by an excellent story by Weston Ochse) but, if you already have that or superheroes aren’t your thing, you can pick up a copy of FOUR IN THE MORNING today, in advance of the official release date of 1 June.

Former Navy man Brian Keene has something for everyone–the holiday is certainly a good excuse to pick up something from him. I recently reviewed THE CAGE and recommend it if you’re in the market for a quicker read.

Army vet Weston Ochse’s BLOOD OCEAN is available for a measly five bucks on Kindle. I have this one on my stack and will be cracking into it soon.

I haven’t read Army Reserve officer Myke Cole’s CONTROL POINT yet, but it looks interesting and has a lot of good reviews.

I’ve read and reviewed both of Army veteran Bryon Morrigan’s military-horror hybrids, THE DESERT and ACHERON, and highly recommend them.

I also have former Naval officer Jeffrey Wilson’s THE TRAITEUR’S RING on my TBR shelf. I interviewed him a couple months back, as well.

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In the Aftermath… (UPDATED)

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…of the viral social media SLAUGHTER of Anthony Giangregorio and Undead Press, there have been some interesting developments (yes, I know–passive voice, but it worked with the post title I wanted to use, so screw it). I still haven’t received any response to my public call for response from Tony G here on the site, nor to the private message I sent him. His Facebook profile also appears to be gone.

The editor of the anthology that started the whole mess, Vincenzo Bilof, on the other hand, has a much larger pair of balls than his illustrious colleague. He’s just as guilty, in my book, but at least he had the stones to submit to an interview and tell his side of the story. The same venue, James Roy Daley’s Books of the Dead Press, also has an interview up with Mandy DeGeit, the screwed-over author whose blog post started the avalanche. Also, author Mark Scioneaux details his lengthy, and unfortunate, business relationship with Tony G on his website.

Tony G does, however, apparently have just enough testicular fortitude to threaten to visit another author he screwed over, Alyn Day, in her home, “to talk. 

There have been some good advice posts for budding authors to come out of this; my own addendum to my initial blog post on the matter, of course, has been joined by posts by Kim Krodel, Jon F. Merz, Greg Chapman, Elizabeth West and others. Anything that results in budding authors getting a new wrinkle on the brain isn’t a complete waste, as far as I’m concerned.

Interestingly enough, the more I’ve thought about this matter over the past couple days, the more involvements I’ve had with this guy over the years than I thought. Two buddies of mine had near-misses with Tony G–one rescued by a colleague beforehand, and another who got his short story collection back and released it elsewhere. The funniest, perhaps, is from January 2011. I wrote to Living Dead Press (one of Tony’s other ventures) in my capacity as a reviewer for Shroud Magazine, asking for review material. He responded that his press didn’t send stuff to reviewers and that I was welcome to buy the books. I remember ranting on Facebook after receiving that email, and predicting that his press wouldn’t last a year.

Goll-lee.

UDPATE (19 MAY 12): Tony G might have a warrant out for his arrest, and Mandy DeGeit is putting her story up for sale next week with profits to go toward paying Cavalcade anthology authors and hiring a lawyer to review Tony G’s contracts for other authors who’ve been screwed over.

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Undead Press: They’ll Add Shit to Your Story.

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At least two authors of my acquaintance have spoken up this week about a publisher, Undead Press, and an editor, Anthony Giangregorio, who accepted their stories for anthologies and published them after making major changes—to include changing the name of the story (a move of debatable immorality, to be sure), and adding in a touch of RAPE (much less debatable!) in another—without any consultation with the authors. The authors didn’t even know the damage was done until after the books went to print because they didn’t receive galley proofs—not even electronic ones. I submit the blogs of authors Alyn Day and Mandy DeGeit for your consideration:

The anthology was released under the name of a different publisher, Undead Press, and my story was no longer my story. It had been butchered. I sat in my livingroom with one of the 6 copies I had purchased, flipping through the pages, eager to see my words in print… only they weren’t my words. It wasn’t even my TITLE. Parts of my story had been cut out, names and details had been changed, things I was never made aware of and had never agreed to. –Alyn Day

They turned a non-gendered character into a boy, they named the best friend, they created a memory for the main character about animal abuse. They added a suggestion of rape at the end… –Mandy DeGeit

If you’ve been around the block a bit as an author, the rest of this post is TL;DR. Please just disseminate as widely as possible so that everyone knows who sucks and why. But since the authors in question are new, and got sucked in by a predator, and because I, in my larval stage, had a near miss with similar idiocy, I want to say a few things to the new authors who may be reading my blog.

  • What Happened Was Bullshit.All of it. The only changes an editor has the ethical right to make without consulting the author are grammatical and typographical corrections. Plain and simple. As an editor, I’ve been privileged to edit authors’ first published stories and the work of Bram Stoker Award winners, plus everything in between. I am not afraid to offer suggestions to any of them. But all they are is suggestions. If an author doesn’t like my suggestion, these are the ONLY options:
    • The author makes the changes;
    • The author says not happening;
    • The editor says I’d rather have the author’s preferred version than nothing and takes the submission without suggestions being used;
    • The editor says it’s my way or the highway.

Note the distinct absence of Editor Does Whatever the Fuck he Wants with the Story.

  • You Should Always Get a Galley. I’ve NEVER had to ask for one. EVER. My publishers have always sent me a copy of what the finished work is going to look like before going to print. I began editing my first anthology a mere three months after my first serious publication, and published the book six months after that. Guess what? I sent the contributors a galley before it went to publication. I was a NOOB and I understood that concept. If this assclown is calling himself a publisher, he should have understood that, too. Which brings me to my last point.
  • It’s Only Your Fault if you Get Fooled Again the Same Way. I knew from the get-go that authors get galleys. It’s not any new author’s fault if they didn’t know that. Some people have a different learning curve, and honestly, I was surrounded by an amazing group of mentors and fellow authors from Day One. The blame for this shit is firmly on the shoulders of Undead Press and Mr. Giangregorio. If you call yourself an editor, or hang your shingle out as a publisher, you are saying  I have my shit together. I want to enter into a professional arrangement with authors and I know how to do this. An author has a right to expect this of a publisher and/or editor—though, granted, those of us who’ve been around a bit know how to smell a rat. If I had made a mistake like this during my first stint as editor, the only appropriate response would have been a sincere public apology and immediate implementation of a solution.

Having said that, I’d like to conclude by asking Mr. Giangregorio to come on out—in the comments section of this blog, even, if he’d like—and discuss what he’s going to do to make this shit right.

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